President Donald Trump’s immigration policies may have an impact on the Virginia winery run by his son Eric. The vineyard is seeking 29 foreign workers to help plant and cultivate vines and perform other chores.
Trump Vineyard Estates, aka Trump Winery, applied for H-2A agricultural visas for six workers in December and 23 more in February, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported last week. It’s one of several vineyards that have applied for the seasonal visas.
Since Trump announced his presidential bid in June 2015, Trump-related companies have sought to bring at least 286 foreign workers into the United States, several of whom work at Trump's Mar-a-Lago luxury resort in Palm Beach, Florida, BuzzFeed reported.
“It’s difficult to find people,” labor attorney Libby Whitley told the newspaper. “People these days say there are no workers that will perform seasonal work like agriculture jobs, landscaping, entry level, low skill ... I think that’s an overstatement. I don’t think there are no people do to it. There’s just a deficiency of people to do it.”
President Trump has said he wants to reduce legal immigration as well as eliminate undocumented immigrants, an action that could exacerbate labor shortages. Trump would tie immigration eligibility to job skills, imposing a merit-based system much like those in use in Canada and Australia.
The H-2A visa program is “for employers who typically hire larger numbers of temporary seasonal labor and whose alternative choice would be hiring from the undocumented population,” Whitely said.
Workers on an H-2A visa in Virginia must be paid $10.72 an hour and be provided housing and transportation to the job site.
“It’s hard to find good, local workers, very hard for this, and that was true three years ago when the economy wasn’t as good,” said Jeff Sanders, owner of the Glass House Winery. “Now, it’s even harder. These aren’t high-paying jobs.”
After the Trump Winery advertised for seasonal workers this year, Whitely said only 13 people applied, none from the United States.
The president, an avowed teetotaler, bought the vineyard, the fifth largest in Virginia by volume, in 2011 out of foreclosure from Patricia Kluge, a former nude model and former wife of billionaire John Kluge. It currently operates as Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC and is managed by Kerry Hannon Woolard, a Trump supporter who was a guest speaker at the Republican National Convention.
Opponents of Trump’s policies used social media to urge a boycott Trump wines, but supporters urged the opposite, creating a run on sales, NPR reported.